U.S. Republican Senator John McCain has urged President Barack Obama’s administration to lead an international coalition of Arab states, the European Union and Turkey to provide Syrian opposition fighters with a range of military support that could include “foreign air power,” arms, training and a “sanctuary” to improve their ability in “an unfair fight.”
“I would like to see the United States with our friends in the region and allies in to achieve the goal of allowing the Syrian fighters to have a fair fight. That may mean a sanctuary where they can train and equip and work with their Syrian National Council. It could mean foreign air power,” McCain said in an interview with Al Arabiya TV.
He said such military intervention would not include “American boots on the ground” and would not be a unilateral American action.
“It does not mean American boots on the ground. It does not mean America unilaterally, but it means a coalition to stop what is an unfair fight,” McCain said.
The Republican Senator repeatedly pointed out that the lightly armed Syrian opposition fighters are engaged in an unequal struggle against the heavily armed forces of the Syrian regime.
“It’s not Bashar al-Assad versus the resistance. It’s Bashar al-Assad backed by Iran and Russia, slaughtering people. The resistance has some AK-47s. And they (the Syrian regime) have tanks and artillery. It’s not a fair fight,” McCain said.
On the eve of the ‘Friends of Syria’ conference in Turkey, Senator McCain dismissed those who claim that the Syrian opposition groups are divided or not known.
“I’ve seen that movie before,” he said, referring to similar claims voiced during the uprisings in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt.
McCain, who recently introduced a Senate resolution sponsored by some of his allies and calling for arming the Syrian fighters, expressed disappointment at President Obama’s approach to the Syrian crisis.
“I’m very disappointed in the President’s reluctance and failure to act. I understand Americans are war weary. They are very war weary. But for us to abandon these people who are fighting and dying—and the atrocities are well known, on your network, CNN and others— to me is an abrogation of what the United States of America is all about.”
World diplomats who will gather in Istanbul on Sunday for the “Friends of Syria” conference are expected to come up with measures to ensure that President Assad abides by the Kofi Annan’s peace plan, which the Syrian regime said it had agreed to.
The conference is also expected to discuss ways to ratchet up pressure on the regime in Damascus.
Turkey and the United States had agreed on the need to send “non-lethal” support to Syrian opposition fighters, including communications equipment.